Germany appealed to the winners in Pakistan's general election to form a government as quickly as possible. The EU hailed the election results as a victory for democracy.
The election campaign was bloody. The hope is that Pakistan's next steps are peaceful
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Wednesday, Feb. 20, that a new government was needed to stabilize the country after Monday's poll set a new step on the way to strengthening democracy in Pakistan.
The foreign minister said in a statement that an important step on the road to stability was "the rapid release" of lawyers and judges detained and placed under house arrest during the state of emergency imposed by President Pervez Musharraf.
"It is the responsibility of the future government to establish public trust by conducting a systematic process of democracy and halting the advance of extremists," the statement said.
Steinmeier hoped extremism could be defeated
Near complete results showed the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of assassinated opposition leader Benazir Bhutto won the most seats in the election, followed by fellow opposition leader Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz. Musharraf's Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid trailed in third place.
Turning away from extremism?
Meanwhile, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said that the elections in Pakistan had shown that "the people of Pakistan stand for democracy and reject extremism."
The head of the European Union's executive also welcomed the fact that the country's political leaders had accepted the results of the vote.
"Pakistan's moderate democratic forces now have an important opportunity to advance towards national unity and tackle the challenges that lie ahead," Barroso said in a statement. "We stand ready to work with the Pakistani authorities, political parties, civil society and other stakeholders to strengthen rule of law and democratic institutions, as well as to improve the socio-economic conditions of the Pakistani people."
Barroso welcomed the results and reactions to the vote
The EU deployed 131 short-term and long-term observers for the elections, and covered 115 of the 272 constituencies.
The observer team concluded that the elections were held in relatively fair conditions, in spite of efforts by public authorities to influence the vote in favor of Musharraf's Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid party.
"The decision to deploy an election observation mission to Pakistan did not come lightly, given the challenges the country faced," External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said. "But Pakistan is too important for us to stand aside at this important moment in its history."
Hopes for a new democratic Pakistan
US President George W. Bush embraced the elections as "a significant victory" for democracy and said he hoped the new government would "be friends of the United States."
Pakistan's neighbors India, Bangladesh and China also expressed hopes for post-election stability in the country.
Musharraf: Still in power -- for now
President Musharraf again rejected demands to quit on Wednesday and called for a "harmonious coalition" as he faced being forced out of power.
Musharraf was making his first official comments since Monday's crucial parliamentary vote, which left him fighting for his political life.
Despite the intensifying pressure on, Musharraf told the Wall Street Journal that he had no plans to resign.
"No, not yet," he replied when asked if he was about to step down. "We have to move forward in a way that we bring about a stable democratic government to Pakistan."